Papua New Guinea 2022
During violence around national elections dozens of people were killed. Dismissals of journalists and new restrictions on them undermined media freedom. Laws aimed at strengthening protection against sexual and gender-based violence were adopted, but high rates of violence against women and girls continued to be reported, including following accusations of sorcery. Access to adequate healthcare remained severely restricted. The death penalty was abolished.
Parliament certified the Climate Change (Management) (Amendment) Act 2021 in February. The Act was aimed at declaring a climate emergency, improving access to climate adaptation funds and updating national plans in line with the commitments under the Paris Agreement. In October, the first National Climate Change Summit was held with government, business and civil society partners, reaffirming climate adaptation and mitigation priorities.
Parliamentary elections in August were accompanied by widespread violence in which an estimated 90,000 people were displaced and schools and other public buildings damaged or destroyed.
Right to life
Election-related violence, fuelled by pre-existing intercommunal tensions, resulted in an estimated 50 deaths between May and August.
In July, a 22-year-old woman was shot and killed by police at a polling station in the capital, Port Moresby. The police said they were investigating but no one had been charged by year’s end.
Freedom of expression
In February, national broadcaster EMTV dismissed all 24 staff in its newsroom after they walked out in protest against the suspension of EMTV’s head of news and current affairs. Sincha Dimara was suspended and later dismissed following her critical reporting of police investigations into possession of firearms and other illegal activities by a high-profile Australian businessman.
On 31 August, the Prime Minister’s office took out advertisements in two daily newspapers stating that the Prime Minister would no longer accept direct inquiries from the media and requiring journalists to submit questions in writing. The following month, more restrictive procedures for visa applications by foreign journalists were announced.
Women’s rights and gender-based violence
Parliament passed amendments to the Family Protection Act in January which included expanded definitions of assault, psychological abuse, sexual assault and aggravated family violence. It also removed court fees for applications for protection orders. However, discrimination against women and gender-based violence remained pervasive.
In April, a Special Parliamentary Committee on gender-based violence, established in 2020, published its final report. Key findings included severe under-resourcing of protection services for women, such as those relating to health, policing, counselling, safe houses and prosecution. The government had not acted on the Committee’s recommendations by year’s end including one calling for improved representation of women in parliament; only two out of 118 members of parliament elected in August were women. Women also remained severely underrepresented in other areas of political and public life.
In January, parliament passed amendments to the Criminal Code criminalizing the act of making accusations of sorcery against others, or claiming to have supernatural powers to identify “sorcerers”. Nevertheless, violent attacks, predominantly against women and girls, following accusations of sorcery continued to be reported. In July, approximately 12 women, including one who was pregnant, were sexually assaulted and burnt by community members in Enga province after being accused of sorcery. Four of the women died and others suffered serious injuries.
Refugees’ and migrants’ rights
Despite the ending of the offshore processing agreement between the Papua New Guinean and Australian governments in 2021, approximately 100 refugees and asylum seekers remained in Papua New Guinea. The Australian government continued to provide funding to Papua New Guinea but claimed to have no further responsibility for those remaining there.
Right to health
By the year’s end only approximately 5% of the population was fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Health clinics, particularly in rural areas, were badly affected by electoral violence and inter-ethnic fighting and some were forced to close.
Amendments to the Criminal Code to abolish the death penalty entered into force in April.1